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Community Lawyering

The Fair Housing & Community Development Project attorneys support community organizing and advocacy campaigns aimed at providing greater economic and housing opportunities for low-income and minority residents, protecting their communities from environmental and health hazards, and preventing displacement of residents resulting from large-scale private and public development projects.

Services

The Fair Housing & Community Development and its pro bono partners provide crucial legal, policy, and best practices research, as well as campaign and negotiation strategy development support.

Community Benefits Agreements

The Fair Housing & Community Development Project also assists in advocating for and negotiating community benefits agreements (CBAs).  A CBA is a legally enforceable agreement between a developer and a coalition of community-based organizations.  In a CBA, the developer agrees to provide benefits to the community, such as affordable housing, a living wage, local hiring, job training, or open space, and the community organizations commit to supporting the proposed project.

Clients and Campaigns

Steps Coalition – Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Port

The Steps Coalition, a membership organization located in Biloxi, Mississippi, works to develop local leadership and support communities to advocate for their needs.  Steps has been organizing residents in Gulfport to ensure that the expansion of the port in Gulfport adequately addresses concerns about jobs and the environmental and health effects on predominantly African American communities.  The Fair Houinsg & Community Development Project, working closely with the Mississippi Center for Justice and members of the Port Campaign Coalition, is supporting Steps in this effort.  Click here to visit Steps Coalition’s website.

Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center – Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing

The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) is dedicated to fighting housing discrimination in the greater New Orleans area.  In December 2011, GNOFHAC and the Lawyers’ Committee released the “People’s Analysis of Impediments (AI) to Fair Housing in New Orleans.”  The report provides the City with guidance on how to complete an effective AI, critiques the City’s current AI, and provides a set of recommendations for moving forward.  As a result of the efforts of GNOFHAC, the Lawyers’ Committee, and several local partners, the City has agreed to work with these groups to draft a new AI.

In April 2011, GNOFHAC and the Lawyers’ Committee jointly released a handbook entitled “Strategies to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing: Proposals for the City of New Orleans Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO) and Beyond” to address impediments to fair housing in New Orleans. The handbook recommends strategies to the City Planning Commission as it re-drafts New Orleans’ comprehensive zoning ordinance, to ensure a more just, economically integrated, and livable New Orleans.  Strategies include inclusionary zoning and a procedure for developers of supportive housing to request reasonable accommodations.   The City Planning Commission will release the next draft of the CZO shortly.  Click here to visit GNOFHAC’s website.

CASA de Maryland – Transit Equity

CASA’s primary mission is to work with the community to improve the quality of life and fight for equal treatment and full access to resources and opportunities for low-income Latinos and their families.  The Lawyers’ Committee is supporting CASA’s efforts to ensure that the planned Purple Line light rail extending from Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George’s County is does not displace low-income tenants and small businesses who should instead benefit from the project.  Click here to learn more about CASA.

Workers’ Center for Racial Justice – Community Workforce Agreements

The New Orleans Workers’ Center For Racial Justice is a community member-based organization dedicated to organizing and advocating for low-wage workers. Their members include day laborrers, guest workers, and homeless residents.  As part of its “STAND with Dignity” program, the Lawyers’ Committee is assisting the New Orleans Workers’ Center with advocating for a greater use of community workforce agreements.  Click here to visit the New Orleans Workers’ Center For Racial Justice’s website.

Texas Appleseed & Texas Low Income Housing Information Service – Environmental Justice & Public Housing

Texas Appleseed’s mission is to promote social and economic justice for all Texans by leveraging the skills and resources of volunteer lawyers and other professionals to identify practical solutions to difficult systemic problems.  Its “Disaster Recovery & Housing” project works to ensure that all levels of government respond to natural disasters in a fair and timely manner, prioritize rebuilding and repair of affordable housing, and include hardest hit communities and low-income families in plans for long-term recovery.  Texas Low Income Housing Information Service (“Texas Housing”) aims to support low-income Texans’ efforts to achieve the American dream of decent, affordable homes in a quality neighborhood.  It researches and evaluates low-income housing programs, needs, and issues; provides this information to promote public understanding and support; and organizes and empowers low-income people and communities to solve their housing and community development problems.

The Lawyers’ Committee is assisting both organizations to ensure that disaster recovery funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are not used to continue to confine low-income residents, many of them in public housing, to racially segregated and environmentally hazardous areas in Port Arthur, Texas, which is home to dozens of petrochemical refineries.

Click here to visit Texas Housing and here to visit Texas Appleseed.

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